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Inside the Offseason: NLL Players’ Summer Lacrosse Journey

We call it the offseason, but is it really an offseason? Just because a champion is crowned after the NLL Finals doesn’t mean that players are putting their feet up and hanging out for the summer.

I don’t think it’s breaking news to say that lacrosse players love lacrosse. They want to be around the game as much as they can, wherever they can. It’s not a job to them – it’s a passion. Whether coaching or playing (sometimes both), you can find lacrosse players lacrossing throughout North America all summer long. Here are some of the main places you can find some of the top-tier NLL players doing lacrosse this summer.

Western Lacrosse Association (WLA)

The Western Lacrosse Association is the Sr. A league of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. For nearly 100 years, it has been a league where many of the best lacrosse players in the world have chosen to hone their skills in the summertime. And, for almost four decades, it has been the league of choice for many NLL players to keep playing box lacrosse during the NLL’s offseason.

The league consists of seven teams (New Westminster Salmonbellies, Burnaby Lakers, Victoria Shamrocks, Coquitlam Adanacs, Nanaimo Timbermen, Langley Thunder and Maple Ridge  Burrards). All of these teams currently have at least a couple of NLL players on them. This is a league so packed with NLL talent. Here are some familiar names that you will know.

Players on the Shamrocks include the likes of the Calgary Roughnecks’ captain and one of the league’s best facilitators, Jesse King. They also have the Halifax Thunderbirds’ newest star, Clarke Petterson, and NLL Goaltender of the Year finalist from the San Diego Seals’ Chris Origlieri, among so many others.

The Salmonbellies, who represented the WLA in last summer’s Mann Cup (the Sr. A Canadian box lacrosse championship), are also loaded with NLL talent. Some of their featured players include Panther City’s leading point-getter, Will Malcom – his brother, and PCLC teammate, Tony, is also on the team – the Vancouver Warriors’ Kevin Crowley and the San Diego Seals’ Drew Belgrave among so many other great players.

The Nanaimo Timbermen are another team with a handful of the NLL’s younger and newer-to-the-league potential stars, including the likes of the Rush’s Zach Manns (25), PCLC’s Jason Knox (23) and Ryan Sheridan (23), the Ottawa Black Bears Taggart Clark (24) and the Albany FireWolves Will Johansen (25).

A few of the other notable players on the other WLA teams include the Rush’s Robert Church and Colorado Mammoth’s Connor Robinson, who play for the Thunder, and the Rush’s Bobby Kidd III and Seals Jacob Dunbar, who play for the Lakers.

All of these NLL guys, and the far too many more that were not mentioned, will be playing their regular season through July with the playoffs starting and ending in August. The winner of the WLA final will go on to represent the West in the Mann Cup to play the best in the East’s MSL this September.

 

Major Series Lacrosse (MSL)

Eastern Canadians love their summer lacrosse, and they get treated to a very high level of action on most nights, as their seven teams (Peterborough Lakers, Six Nations Chiefs, Brooklin L.C., Oakville Rock, Cobourg Kodiaks, Brampton Excelsiors and Owen Sound North Stars) are full of NLL stars just like WLA. If you look at the rosters of teams like the Six Nations Chiefs, their roster is so stacked with NLL studs that if they were an NLL team, they would very likely win the NLL Cup.

The Chiefs roster is a who’s who of NLL stars. From Bandits’ superstar Dhane Smith, the Seals’ dynamic scorer, Austin Staats, his brother, Thunderbirds’ elite forward, Randy Staats, the Bandits’ captain and Steve Priolo, NLL Goaltender of the Year finalist Doug Jamieson from the FireWolves, to NLL Defenseman of the Year finalist Brad Kri from the Rock. The list goes on and on. It is clear that this team is built to win a championship.

They are so stacked that they don’t just have Jamieson as a goalie option, they have the Thunderbirds’ Warren Hill, too. In addition, they don’t just have face-off man and defenseman Tim Edwards of the Colorado Mammoth, they have the Georgia Swarm’s Jeremy Thompson to take draws and play D/transition, as well.

Then, there’s the Peterborough Lakers. They have the Thunderbirds’ Jake Withers, who won the 2024 NLL Transition Player of the Year, the Colorado Mammoth’s Joey Cupido and Robert Hope, the Philadelphia Wings’ Joe Resetarits, Knighthawks star transition player, Matt Gilray, to name a few of their most talented players.

But wait, there are more stacked MSL teams. The Oakville Rock are headlined by 2024 NLL Goaltender of the Year, Nick Rose, the Knighthawks’ breakout star, Ryan Lanchbury, One of the Swarm’s leading finishers, Andrew Kew, the Rock’s Nick Rose and Black Bears’ rookie defensive star, Callum Jones, among others. There’s also the loaded Brooklin L.C. who have Black Bears Connor Kearnan, Thunderbirds’ Austin Shanks, the Wings’ Zach Higgins and many more.

Some of the other notables around the MSL include the Swarm’s Adam Weidemann and PCLC’s stout defender Josh Medeiros, who play on the Excelsiors, while the Wings’ Tanner Buck and FireWolves’ Jackson Reid play for the North Stars.

The East’s chase for MSL bragging rights and the privilege to compete in the Mann Cup is going to be a good one all summer long. The Chiefs, last year’s Mann Cup winners, are the favorites to represent the East in the Mann Cup this summer, but the rest of the MSL, and especially the other top teams will be looking to change that over the next two months.

 

Senior B. Leagues

Pro players don’t limit themselves to where they’ll play over the summer. Every summer, handfuls of players chose to suit up in the Sr. B leagues of North America.

Take the Ladner Pioneers of the West Coast Senior Lacrosse League in British Columbia, Canada. Their team has a few very very talented Roughnecks in former NLL Goaltender of the Year, Christian Del Bianco, as well as gifted players Tyler Pace and Haiden Dickson. The Pioneers also have the Wings’ Mitch Jones and the Thunderbirds’ Ryan Benesch. This team is poised to compete for the President’s Cup (the Sr. B national championship), which will be hosted by the Pioneers in August.

Then you have the Allegany Arrows of the Can-Am Lacrosse League, which is under the umbrella of the CLA MA First Nations Lacrosse Association. Newly crowned NLL champions from the Bandits’, Chase Fraser and Chris Cloutier, will be part of the team this summer, as well as the Black Bears’ Jay Thorimbert and FireWolves’ Leo Storous.

Out in the prairies, you have more guys that are playing Sr. B. Aside from the recently retired (as of the last few years) Jeff Shattler and Shawn Evans, the Rush’s Frank Scigliano and Desert Dogs’ Brandon Clelland are all playing for the Standing Buffalo Fighting Sioux in the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League.

 

Jr. A Lacrosse Leagues

The Sr. players shouldn’t get all of the love this summer. Believe it or not, some of the NLL’s brightest future stars are still playing in Jr. A, whether in the British Columbia Jr. A Lacrosse Association (BCJALL) or the Ontario Jr. A Lacrosse League (OJLL). And it’s not NLL guys that are playing in these leagues, a handful of pro box players are coaching in these leagues as well. Here are some notable guys you know from the NLL.

The Warriors’ blossoming rookie defenseman, Brayden Laity, is playing alongside the Thunderbirds’ Caelan Mander with the Port Coquitlam Saints. They are being coached by the Cornwall brothers, Travis and Jeff, the latter of whom is a member of the Roughnecks. Also out West, when Kevin Crowley isn’t playing for his hometown Sr. A Salmonbellies in New Westminster, he’s coaching the Salmonbellies Jr. A squad.

Out East, you have several more NLL players still playing Jr. A ball including the Rush’s Thomas Kiazyk, who plays for the Toronto Beaches, the Wings’ Mitch Armstrong, who plays for the St. Catharines Athletics, and the FireWolves’ Nicholas Volkov, who plays for the Burlington Blaze, to name a few.

As for OJLL coaches, the Black Bears’ Reilly O’Connor and Damon Edwards, as well as Thunderbirds’ Luc Magnan, who are coaches on the Beaches. The Knighthawks’ Riley Hutchcraft is one of the Mimico Mountaineers coaches, and the Mammoth’s Robert Hope and Knighthawks’ Turner Evans are coaches of the Peterborough Lakers – Hope is one of those cases like Crowley where he plays for the Sr. A team and coaches the Jr. A team.

Roughnecks’ assistant coach, Troy Cordingley is a head coach for the Oakville Buzz, while Nick Rose and the Knighthawks’ Rylan Hartley are put of the Orangeville Northmen staff (Rose is GM and Hartley is an assistant coach). NLL coaches Rusty Kruger and Andrew Suitor are also on the Northmen staff. The OJLL’s Kitchener-Waterloo team has the Bandits’ Steve Orleman and the Rush’s Jake Boudreau on their bench and the Whitby Warriors’ bench has the Black Bears’ Mitch Wilde, plus they have the Desert Dogs’ Joel Watson as one of their GMs. The Burlington Blaze also have one of the Swarm’s coaches (Alex Crepinsek) as their head coach.

 

Premier Lacrosse League (PLL)

Some of the NLL’s best have decided to take their game outside for the summer.

Jeff Teat, Trevor Baptiste and Reid Bowering play for the New York Atlas. Josh Byrne, Tye Kurtz, Ian MacKay, Kyle Jackson and Blaze Riorden feature on the Carolina Chaos. Wes Berg, TD Ierlan, Ron John and Charlie Bertrand are featured on the California Redwoods. Mike Messenger, Ryan Terefenko and Eli Salama feature on the Denver Outlaws. Zed Williams and Joe Nardella are NLL standouts playing on the Maryland Whipsnakes. Zach Currier, Jack Hannah, Ryland Rees, Dillon Ward, Connor Kelly and Eli Gobrecht are some of the notables on the Philadelphia Waterdogs. Finally, Brett Dobson, Tom Schreiber, Connor Fields, Challen Rogers and other highlight some of the best NLL guys on the Utah Archers.

 

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